Posted tagged ‘arlington cemetery poem’

Trappist-1 (I Won’t Even Look Across the River)

April 2, 2017

Trappist-1 (I Won’t Even Look Across the River)

No ship will be big enough
to take us all.

As for me, if I’m in the vicinity
of Washington, D.C.
I’ll lie face down
upon the ground at Arlington,
among blades worn
by those whose wars
are done,

just listening
to that grass grow.



55 for Kerry O’Connor’s prompt on Real Toads.

Process Note – Trappist-1 is a new planetary system recently discovered by NASA astronomers, with planets that may be inhabitable by humans.  (Rendering above, such as it is, is mine.)

Arlington is the U.S. national military cemetery, located just across the Potomac from the national mall in Washington, D.C., a place where U.S. veterans and spouses have been buried since the Civil War.

Reversal at Arlington

May 5, 2014


Reversal at Arlington

Oh you are men of stones
now. You have cracked
heaven’s vault,
one way or another.
Having tongues and eyes, you have also,
at some point,
whether silently or aloud, being of
this earth,
this hallowed, hollowed earth.

Though you’re now reduced
to roles–names, dates, ranks, wars–
‘father, husband, grandfather, Purple
Heart” – you were not players strutting
in a play, not king
for a day, nor me neither, a daughter,
who lives,
a daughter who was allowed, always,
to heave her heart
into her mouth,
a daughter who
looks there, as Lear says, seeking breath
in the stillness.

I’m sorry. Another Arlington Cemetery poem. And very much a draft–I’ve edited it extensively since first posting. (I’ve probably not made it better either, as this last edit is being done at 4:30 in the morning. But I woke up with a change of heart.)

My father is buried at Arlington. This is a rather odd poem, based upon the last few lines of King Lear in “King Lear” uttered after his daughter, Cordelia, has been killed. A Purple Heart is a U.S. medal awarded to a military service person wounded or killed in service person wounded in combat.

At the suggestion of the wonderful Hedgewitch, I am posting the main quote that I was thinking of in writing this poem. It is Act V, Scene 3, when Lear carries in his daughter, Cordelia, who has been hanged. Cordelia had earlier been estranged from Lear because of her refusal/inability to “heave her heart into her mouth” and declare the specific measure of her love for her father in a who-loves-dad-most competition with her two older sisters, Goneril and Reagan.

Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone for ever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass;
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.

Throughout the scene, Lear tries to see if Cordelia is breathing (which would mean that he is mistaken and that she lives.) He repeats as his last words, “look there,” seeming to find her breath.

The line about the players strutting is (kind of) from Macbeth.


May 5, 2014



I ask you to make sure
that I’m not buried
where I can hear cars.
This, walking to the edge
of Arlington Cemetery where the lawns,
still empty, are separated from a parkway
by a fence, motors roaring
through what was, a few steps back,
only birdsong flickering
through the scores
of small white stones.

“Or muzak either,” you say, squinting,
because we had to leave
a Sunglass Hut earlier–me nutty
about all-around sound–

“Even if I’m only, you know, ash,” I add.

It takes us a moment
to see that the fence is filled
with niches;
a woman sits cross-legged
on the sidewalk facing one, the only movement
the shimmer of her gold blouse.

Just then, a motorcycle fires,
rata-tat-tat, someone peeling away
too fast–ripping–so it feels, with the green stillness behind,
the woman’s stillness ahead–
the immense sky–Washington not
a tall city–

I try to find the bike,
but my eye is caught, instead,
in the light of the woman’s blouse, the unchanging rays
of each bent sleeve.

“So maybe it was good he died when he did.” I try a laugh.

You smile.

“I mean,” I say, “I know I won’t be able to hear anything,
but I’d just go bananas.”

You take my hand.


And here’s one for Kerry O’ Connor’s prompt on with real toads to write a vignette.  I do not know if this qualifies for Kerry’s wonderful prompt, but what I came up with.

As a process note, Arlington Cemetery is the Arlington National Cemetery, the US national military cemetery. It is an incredibly beautiful place, just on the other side of the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial and the Mall. In my photo, you can see the Washington Monument and the Capitol in the distance. The place we walked was beyond that single stone, which is quite unusual, as most of them are in lines and rows (and the grass is better tended.) My sense is that this one may actually be a marker for the beginning of the next grave area rather than an actually headstone.

Editing and uploading on iPhone from train where internet connection keeps giving out! Agh!!!! So posted before ready, and now in my office, and still uncertain–but, it’s a vignette, right? So, maybe I’ve even said too much—)